Spring is an appropriate time for Seattle author Jennie Shortridge's latest book to be published; "Love Water Memory" is an existential story, a novel that centers on renewal and hope.
The tale begins when a woman is discovered knee-deep in San Francisco Bay, clueless as to who she is or where she comes from. Her story grabs headlines and within a few days she has been identified as Lucie Walker by her fiancé, who arrives at the psych ward to claim her and take her home to Seattle.
But returning to the home Lucie shares with Grady Goodall does not mean a return to normalcy. She has been diagnosed with dissociative fugue - probably brought on by a traumatic event. She has no autobiographical memory and apparently no family - other than Grady, who is kind but hesitant.
The doctors have told Lucie she has a good chance of recovering her memory eventually, but as she starts reaching out - mostly to neighbors, at first - the feedback she gets makes her wonder if she wants to resume her old life. People didn't seem to like the "old" Lucie much. She learns that she was disciplined, driven and standoffish.
The new Lucie delights in sensual details - flavors, colors, fragrances. She is winsomely inquisitive.
This perplexes Grady - how should he respond to this woman who looks so familiar but whose personality seems to have changed so significantly? The fiancée who once had no interest in discussing her past now begs him to reveal everything he knows about her background, but there is little he can tell her.
A phone call changes that. An old woman who claims to be related to Lucie says she has seen the story on the news and wants to get in touch with her. Grady does recall that Lucie once mentioned an aunt whom she disliked and had made a point of staying away from. Would facilitating a reintroduction be salutary or damaging, considering Lucie's fragile emotional state?
"Love Water Memory" raises interesting questions about the interconnectedness of relationships, memories, and personal identity.
Shortridge deals out multiple perspectives in chapters told from different points of view. The character development is thoughtfully detailed, and while this seems to hinder the pace of the story midway through the book, it ultimately enriches the reader's understanding of Lucie's milieu.
There is a chapter with Grady's family of sisters, however, that is sugared with too much heartwarming fluff. From the makeup Lucie wears, to the way she wins over Grady's protective tribe, this chapter is nothing but junk filler.
The pace picks up again as Lucie becomes more proactive about seeking clues to her past. As the revelatory bits and pieces click into place at a hastening rate, readers will discover just how meticulously Shortridge has crafted this tale.
There's a fairy tale aspect to this story - just how much can we really re-invent ourselves? - which is probably why hopeful springtime is the best time to read "Love Water Memory."
Barbara Lloyd McMichael writes a weekly column focusing on the books, authors and publishers of the Pacific Northwest. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org